Impacts of Extended Care on Youth Outcomes Two Years after Foster Care Has Ended
In two previous reports, we shared findings on the relationships between the amount of time youth remained in extended foster care (EFC) and a host of outcomes at age 19 (Courtney & Okpych, 2017) and at age 21 (Courtney, Okpych, & Park, 2018). This report builds on prior findings to examine the impact of extended foster care on youth outcomes at age 23, about two years after the time study participants reached California’s foster care age limit. In this report, we analyze both state administrative data and the fourth interview wave of CalYOUTH.
What We Did
First, we leveraged data on a sample of over 50,000 youths from California’s Child Welfare Services/Case Management System (CWS/CMS). The sample included youth who had been in foster care for at least 6 months sometime after their 16th birthday. Second, we drew on data collected from our four waves of interviews with a representative sample of California foster youth. This sample included 622 young people who completed the first and fourth interview waves when they were on average 17 and 23 years old, respectively. In both of these approaches, we estimated the impact that each year in care past age 18 had on several outcomes in areas such as education and employment, pregnancy and parenting, economic hardships and homelessness, physical and behavioral health, social support, criminal justice system involvement, and victimization.
What We Found
We found that each additional year in EFC significantly increased the probability that youth completed a high school credential by about 8%, increased their expected probability of enrolling in college by 5-12%, increased the number of quarters that youth were employed and the amount youth had earned between their 21st and 23rd birthdays, increased the amount of money youth had in bank accounts by about $650, and increased the odds that youth felt they had enough people to turn to for social support.
We also found that each additional year in EFC significantly decreased the odds of being food insecure in the past 12 months by about 21%, decreased the odds of being homeless or couch-surfing between the ages of 21 and 23 by about 19%, decreased the number of times youth had been homeless and the number of days youth had been homeless between ages 21 and 23, and decreased the odds that youth had been arrested since their last CalYOUTH interview by about 28%. However, as our earlier reports also showed, extended care does not appear to positively influence other outcomes, including youths’ physical and behavioral health and their likelihood of experiencing victimization.
Further, the evidence of the ability of EFC to improve youths’ persistence in postsecondary education remains mixed. Our supplemental analyses suggest that the influence of extended foster care may differ for some outcomes by gender or by race/ethnicity.
What It Means
Similar to our earlier reports on extended care and youth outcomes at age 19 (Okpych & Courtney, 2017) and age 21 (Courtney, Okpych, & Park, 2018), in the current report we did not find evidence of deleterious consequences of remaining in extended foster care. To the contrary, our findings indicate that remaining in care past age 18 helps to meet youths’ basic needs, allows them to further their education, to gain work experience and increase earnings, to save money, and to reduce the likelihood of being homeless and having contact with the criminal justice system. In general, our findings indicate that remaining in care past age 18 is associated with a wide range of benefits for youth transitioning to adulthood from care and that most of those benefits are maintained years after the youth have left care. CalYOUTH is a study of California extended foster care in the first few years of its implementation, and future studies should examine EFC’s impact later in its implementation and in other states across the U.S.
Impacts of EFC on Outcomes at age 23